Leaders and managers are among employees’ most trusted and best-positioned sources of information — vital for keeping everyone on message. Helping leaders and managers to effectively communicate the company’s priorities and making them relevant to all can potentially make a huge difference in an organisation’s performance.

However, several barriers can prevent leaders and managers from communicating in the ways we need them to. I’ll share five ways to train leaders to develop impactful communication skills that inspire action.

1. Know your audience. Tailor each message for the intended audience. Are they experts on the topic or require further explanation? Are you inviting collaboration or inspiring autonomy? Consider their communication preference. Some individuals prefer face-to-face interaction (in-person or virtually), while others prefer to receive emails to read at their leisure.

2. Remain present. Whether you are communicating in-person or virtually, people can tell if you are distracted. The consequence of this discovery can be severe as a workforce that doesn’t feel heard will not reciprocate when such person makes a call to action. Stay engaged when others are speaking by removing distractions, especially during meetings where the electronic devices can take your attention away in an instant. Which bring me onto…

3. Exercise active listening. Respected leaders build trust and establish rapport by being an active listener. Use non-verbal affirmations to show the other person you are listening to them, such as nodding your head to show understanding. Wait for the other person to finish before reflecting, paraphrasing what you heard back to your audience to ensure you have understood. Asking specific questions is another way to make sure you are both on the same page.

4. Focus on your ‘why’. Starting with why helps you to focus your message on a clear purpose, resisting tangential sub-topics that steer from that primary subject. People’s time is precious. Make the most of the time you have with your people by following this approach.

5. Always keep learning. Effective leaders embrace lifelong learning and self-improvement. Professional development in essential areas like effective communication can give you and your team the competitive edge they need to succeed.

About the author

Former official videographer to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Richard holds senior communications positions within the private and third sectors and has aided the online promotion of global brands in academia, art and politics for over 17 years. 

Currently Director of Internal Communications at Elsevier, a medical data and analytics publisher, Richard also holds trustee positions at Hackney Empire, Sarcoidosis UK and is an independent steering group member for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

As a personal branding consultant, Richard teaches a Guardian Masterclass series , Self-promotion for introverts and How to succeed as an introvert professional and is also the founder of Black Introvert Week UK. Follow Richard’s brand awareness blog, where you can download free e-books on introversion empowerment.